Friday, October 7, 2016

Where am I?

You might have noticed that I have not been blogging very much lately. I wasn't sure I was going to take the time to explain this to you, but I think it is better to just be open than leave weeks of blank space between each post. 

I am in such a wonderful and weary season of life. My mind is swirling with ideas, inspirations, and practices that I want to share with you, but my time and attention are limited at the moment. Noelle (my daughter) is leaping ahead in her development and in only 9 months she is behaving like a toddler, walking, eating the world, and getting into everything. She keeps me on my toes and I am choosing to give her the attention that I might have dedicated to writing. I would have it no other way! She is pure joy!

Waked Up Studio is entering a new season all of its own. I am selling many more commissions than I am selling my own pieces of art. I am teaching more Painted Prayers classes than I am other subjects. I am starting to get a taste of where this business might be going. Ultimately, this means that I am discovering what I am capable of. I have been recording myself painting, lecturing, teaching, and learning to edit and manipulate all of these incredible design devices so that I can start to develop and teach online classes that would be accessible to anyone, around the world, anywhere there is the internet. I did not study graphic design or media design. I am learning this all myself and taking it day by day, step by step so that I can independently create these offerings for your enjoyment and growth. It makes me really excited to envision this new phase for Waked Up Studio.

I am also working on preparing space to offer my own spiritual development retreat again. I want to have a full house and a rich, wonderful experience ready for everyone who wants to participate. I am putting out feelers and talking to awesome leaders in the community to discover what their interests might be in participating alongside me. 

When I am not developing the next phase for Waked Up Studio, painting my prayers, or enjoying Noelle, I am trying to support my husband in the incredible task of rehabbing my grandparents home which we plan to move into as soon as it is possible. You know how people say having a kid is the most stressful thing someone can do? Or how rehabbing a house is the most stressful thing a person can do? Or how starting your own business is the most stressful thing someone can do? Or how moving is the most stressful thing someone can do? Well, Joel and I are doing ALL of those things at the same time. And while there is no denying it is stressful at times, what I want you all to know is that it is just busy around here. I don't always make time to write in the midst of all the newness, the challenges, and joy.

All of that said, I would like to be more consistent in writing posts and will aim for a weekly posting for the time being. I hope you will continue to stay tuned and interested in the growth, the practices, and the gifts available at Waked Up. There is more to come, much more! Thank you for your faithful support and encouragement!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Right in front of me

I paused and looked up. 

I actually paused. I think that was my first success. 

When I looked up, I let my eyes scan skyward very slowly so that I could actually take note of what was happening between where I was standing and the heavens. What I saw was glorious.

At my feet, my child was laughing and trying to walk as her 4-year-old cousin entertained us with the nature facts he was learning at zoo school, pointing us onward with a stick in the shape of an arrow. To my right was the pond, as still as a mirror with images of clouds and sky, disturbed only by a gentle touch-down by a passing dragonfly. Rays of afternoon sun reflected off the brush in front of me, coating the woods with gold. Just above the golden light was movement. Silver dancing insects spun in circles, up and down, waltzing to the tune of the ending day. Following the bright gray and white tree trunks to their leaves, I saw that they too were spinning in time with the gnats and dusk bugs coming out to celebrate the setting sun. Above the leaves were clouds, like sponge prints on a perfectly blue background. They seemed to pulsate in and out like breath and I had to squint to focus on their shapes and colors amidst the brightest white.

The air was rich with a peat-moss and sweet grass so hearty that I sucked heaving breaths of it into my lungs until my belly bulged out with every inhale, my core muscles feeling tender from the lack of proper use.

In this thirty seconds of the day, I remembered a hundred days as a child. I smelled church camp, long cool hikes, rich green forests, my daddy, my neighbors, my joy in nature, and sunsets, sunsets, sunsets. In less than a minute, I wrapped my arms around my inner child and kissed her lightly on the cheek as we recalled, together, just how full we feel when we pause and SEE.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Belief Precedes Miracles

This is an article that my husband, Joel, recently wrote for his newsletter at work. I had to share it!

Matthew 13:58

58 And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

When I was in high school, I remember reading this verse in my study bible regarding the rejection of Jesus in Nazareth. I found it odd that Jesus would choose not to perform any miracles in a town just because people did not believe in him. Wouldn’t miracles help people to believe? Wouldn't that build their faith?

We all long for miracles. We pray for them. In seeking miracles, we hope that they will inspire our belief. But Jesus has shown us something remarkable in this passage. He does not perform miracles in the midst of unbelief. Instead, Jesus calls us to believe in him in order to witness his divinity. Belief precedes the miracle.

But it doesn’t stop there. Jesus’s message from the book of John reveals that not only will our belief allow us to witness miracles that he can perform, but it will also allow us to become the miracles that we seek. Jesus says that we will do even greater works than he.

John 14:12

12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” 

Was Jesus telling a joke here? How can we perform miracles? How could I do anything greater than God-incarnate?

Jesus did not speak this truth to make his disciples feel better.  He spoke these words to wake his disciples up to the abundance and provision of the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ has been given to You. Jesus ensured this promise during Pentecost and ever since that day we have become co-heirs and connected with the Son of God himself. God has pressed his fingerprints into your life and there is no separating the Holy One from you. This is good news! When we believe that we are one in the Spirit, then we can truly become witnesses to Christ’s living love in this world. And what’s more, we become God's love in the world, a divine miracle. 

So how do we believe? How do we build a life of faith? We must practice. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Awfully hard

Our family has been working on rehabbing my grandparents home for over a year now. There really are no words to describe the process of ups and downs, and the enormous amount of physical labor and planning that has gone into every task. Often, Joel (who is doing most of the work with our parents) will look at the place and mutter, "No one will ever know what we did in there" and it's true. At the end of the day, friends and visitors will walk into this beautiful home and admire how nicely we painted the walls. 

In the exhaustion and the moments of defeat when our expectations just can not be met, we have found ourselves thinking, "This is awful." The pay-off very often goes unseen or felt by those who have put in the most back-breaking hours of work. It becomes awfully difficult to stay positive. Awfully hard to feel motivated and grateful. The work, bottom line, is awfully hard. 

Last week, as we marveled in frustration over how long this is taking and why we just can't catch a break, I was reminded of the story of Moses. God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, only to let them live for 40 years in the desert before they could settle the Promised Land. I have written here that I believe a large part of this timing was for the purpose of spiritual purging. The Egyptian culture, with its god's and practices, needed to be purged out of a generation before God's people could become God's people again. Remembering this, Joel asked, "What do you think is being purged from our lives? How are we being refined through this process?"

It didn't take much effort to come up with a list of our own. There is so much that is changing for us both. We are learning to truly grasp and hold onto the gifts of the present with gratitude because the future is sometimes too stressful to even think about, let alone, prepare for. There is no procrastinating with this project. It will not ever come to life if we waste a moment of time and it cannot be finished with that last minute procrastinator's burst of motivation. We have to press on with our goals, lists and continue to work hard in spite of the obstacles.  We are learning not to take short cuts, that it makes all the difference in the word to fix something right the first time so that we don't ever have to go back to it. And in skipping the shortcuts, we are learning just how beautiful these efforts can be in the aesthetic. 

Those are just a couple of ways that our thinking and behaviors have shifted. But it isn't just our minds and actions that are tempering. This project has given us both precious time with our parents on a regular basis where we have received the gift of hearing their stories and life experiences. They have also been teaching us the practical skills they have spent their years attaining. In additional to our parental relationships, we have had friends show up just at the right moment to lend a hand but more importantly, to remind us that we are not alone in our endeavors. These visits have brought us so much joy, making the work light and our spirit's lighter.

When we step back and look at the work we have been allowed to accomplish, more often than not someone will say, "Well, it isn't perfect." But there is no denying that it is a lot better. We are all being rehabbed, purged and refined in this journey. Each season, difficult or triumphant is an opportunity to become better. 

It has been important to remember this word "Rehab". When someone goes to rehab for some reason, when they come out everyone will say, "You look great! You seem like you are doing so much better!" People will look for the evidence of change and rejoice in those transformations. That rehabbed person isn't going to be perfect and they will not be cured of their reformed behavior or addiction, but they will be better. And this better-ness is something they will have to tend to and work on every single day of their lives if they hope to continue to grow and heal as God intended. And I do believe that healing will come in time through the practice of daily intentionality.

Our house is the same way. We are repairing nearly 60 years of wear and tear on a home that has been a place of warmth and growth for 3 generations. We will not walk away from this project looking at perfection but we will be able to see that it is better. This home can be renewed, it can become more efficient, upgraded and updated, and it can be a wonderful pallet for our family to take on a new shape in this story.

We are no different than our grandparent's home. Nothing in this life that we do or achieve is going to make us perfect. We cannot earn perfection and we certainly can't make it our expectation and still believe we will live a life full of joy.

When this project feels awfully hard, I must remember that this line is exactly right. This project is AWE-FULL. And in this fullness, we are all being made better. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Water Wins

For 12 months now, Joel and our family have been working diligently on my grandparent's house to make it a home again. The work has been overwhelmingly disgusting, depressing and usually very difficult. He has come home exhausted both mentally and physically, and most days it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel even when it is there. And in spite of all of this, we are so excited to move in!

As we finally approach what should be...has to be...the last few months of work before we can move in, I have started to understand something about home ownership. When it comes to owning a home, owning land, your biggest enemy is also your greatest friend- Water. 

All of the problems that we have had to conquer on this house have been due to water. Leaks have turned to rot, have turned to replacing entire pieces of the floor. Drips have stretched open seams and holes that have allowed vermin into the house or bought air to pour out. Water has ushered in mold, peeled back plaster, sunken the tubs, destroyed the joist, invited in animals, and given house-eating vines the will to live. 

If we are ever going to be able to live in this house we are going to have to get the water under control. But how can you control nature? How do we expect to keep something as permeable and agile as water to bend to our wills? 

As excited as I am to live in this space and call it my home, I am acutely aware that there is something very unnatural going on here...we were not meant to conquer water.

Every homeowner I have had a conversation with in the last year has described a way of living that involves continual upkeep and maintenance on their houses. There is always a project to complete or a chore to take on. This is the phenomenon of ownership. When you own something, you have to take care of it. Any amount of neglect will cost you dearly in time and money.

There is a fine line between you owning a home or a home owning you. When you are up against something like water then you can not ever rest. This makes me wonder at our human decisions and needs to own things. If we cannot rest from the work of taking care of such things, then are they really meant to be part of our lives? What could we be doing if we weren't maintaining our properties? Is the destructive nature of water something that we could ever tame? Why does the human race continue to build, and dream, and pursue these ventures when the test of time will tell the same story it has since the beginning -water wins. 

As I ponder these things, I keep seeing images of Death Valley National Park in my head. The beauty of that desert landscape would not even exist without water. The glorious caverns and crevasses that we love to hike are only there because this vast desert was once a vast lake. Water tells the story of new life. It tells the story of continual growth. 

Disney's Pocahauntus says it best, "The thing I like about rivers is, you can't step in the same river twice. The water is always changing, always flowing. But people I guess can't live like that, they all must pay a price. To be safe, they lose their chance of every knowing what's around the river's bend?" 

Water is a symbol of transformation, of change and rightly so. When I find myself worrying about the gutters that keep spilling over and pouring water under the house, or wondering where that leak is headed down the wall, it does me good to remember that nothing stays the same. There is always change. There is always hope for a new way of being because there is no way this world will remain as it is. As long as there is water, there will always be transformation and life. If we are not growing then we are dying. There is no other way of being. 

So it might be a pain to continually reroute the water so that it doesn't wash into our crawl space. We might always have to fix the plaster. But we can water our garden grow crops that will feed us, we can wash our bodies and clothing, we drink our fill and be healthy knowing that we are part of a world that doesn't leave us trapped. We are water, we need water, and we are shaped by water, so drink up and live in the flow because it leads to new beginnings. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Living in the Overflow

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to facilitate a retreat, yet again! This time, it was for a group of teenagers from Decatur Presbyterian Church. Their youth pastor was working on creating the space for the youth to take on some ownership of their ministry area. She thought they were ready to establish a youth leadership team and hoped that I would lay a foundation for them to work from. 

These youth had a great foundation. What I brought to the table was some awareness. First, we began by looking at everyone's sacred spaces in the day. The moments where they find peace and feel connected to something bigger than themselves. This led to a discussion of prayer and finding their individual prayer voices so that they can meet God in the places where he is already at work. Then we took the 5 Love Languages quiz to determine how the group experienced love on a daily basis. 

Discovering your love language is a powerful thing. It helps youth and adults to see both how they prefer to express love and how others are attempting to show them love. Using touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts and acts of service, this group was able to identify that knowing each other's  love languages can help to build community within their church and relationships with others. It also allowed them to see spaces where they may be called to spend time with God and ways that they are most likely to experience God's love. 

When Jesus called his disciples he asked a group of life-long fishermen to fish. He asked them to do exactly what they were already doing, loved doing, needed to do, in order to live more deeply into a relationship with him. We are asked to do the same thing. I asked the youth to think about things they already love, they already enjoy, and brainstorm how those joys and gifts might lead them back to a life in relationship and community with the Spirit. 

This led into a brain-storming session on all the areas in ministry where the youth could do what they love in order to create more relevant and accessible spaces for youth in several ministry areas in their church. They came up with ideas for mission work, local service, worship, fellowship, education, all created with the intention of deepening their relationship with God and building community. They even began to affirm spiritual gifts in one another and decided that they should take on inviting leaders and youth to use those gifts in areas where they would multiply into great blessings for their church.

This retreat was a joy. I loved getting to know these youth, experiencing the sincere commitment of their leaders, and hearing all of their intentions for love and leadership. If your church or youth are ready to live a little deeper in communion with the Spirit, I'd love to help facilitate a sacred space for you all to grow together. 

Name Your Price

Today, Joel asked if we could read the Bible together for a while. Of course! He asked what I wanted to hear as he peeled open the creased pages of his travel Message. I said, "I want to hear about Jacob." So, Joel flipped his Bible open and lo'- he landed right in the beginning of that very story. 

There are a lot of interesting things that happened in this tale. Lots of God promising blessings heaped upon Abraham and Sara. Then promising blessings heaped upon Issac and Rebecca. Both generations of couples doubted and faltered, hurting people around them while discovering that even though they were total screw-ups, God wasn't going to go back on his promise to them. When you finally get to Jacob's tale, you can't help but think this guy is one sneaky bastard. I find myself shaking my head in disapproval and defending him all at the same time. I love him and hate him...probably because he is me. We all are Jacob at some point in our lives. 

From the get-go, he is portrayed as a cheat. He tricks his brother (who, in his defense, is not the brightest candle in the box) out of his birthright. Then he tricks his father (Issac) into giving him his brother's blessing. Having taken everything that was rightfully his brother's, he had to leave town because his bro was fixin' to kill him. Jacob goes to stay with his mom's brother under the guise of looking for a bride (which was only second to escaping his brother's wrath). He met his cousin Rachel right away and fell head-over-heels in love. He stays with her family for a month and helps out on the property. After a month, his uncle says that he wants to pay him for his hard work and asks Jacob what he would like in return for working the land. Leban (his uncle) let him name his price. 

If you have ever read this story, you are going to remember thinking that Leban was the cheat later on. But today, I discovered something new- Jacob was given the chance to name his price. And what did he say? 

"I will work for you for 7 years if you let me marry your youngest daughter Rachel"

All this time, I thought Leban asked Jacob to work 7 years in order to marry Rachel. If you read ahead you will see that when the 7 years was up, Leban allowed Jacob to party really hard on his wedding day and then slipped his oldest daughter, Leah, into the marriage bed. Jacob, somehow, didn't notice he was sleeping with the wrong sister until the next morning and by then, it was too late. The biblical deed had been done. So, he had to work another 7 years for Rachel. This caused so many quarrels and awful family feuds. Both sisters vying for Jacob's affection. One popping out sons right and left and the other, more beloved, giving him her servant to sleep with, and so on. It was an Old Testament soap opera if there ever was one. 

What struck me about this story is that Jacob made that deal himself. What would have happened if he had said, "Uncle, I just want to marry Rachel." Why did he throw all those years of work in there? Leban had already said he wanted to pay him because he was family, why didn't he just tell him what he desired? 

I think Jacob did what we all do. He didn't really believe that he could accept the blessing. He didn't think he deserved it or had worked hard enough for it. This happens to us so often on our spiritual walks. We ask for God's blessings and then we don't accept them. We have been given access every day of our lives to abiding joy and the miracles that come with it, but we don't just take hold of the blessings that are available to us. We barter with God, we bargain, or we take matters into our own hands. What if we just let go and say, "Thank you"?

Jacob didn't deserve Rachel but there is the possibility that he could have just married her right away. Instead, he created a situation of toil and turmoil. 

What if we just say, "Yes"? What if we just embraced God's blessings instead of inventing terms around them. God didn't put the terms there. Why do we? This is called GRACE. We have already been giving our inheritance in Christ. We already have full access to the Kingdom and love in the present. We are the ones that think we still have to work for it. What if all we actually have to do is choose it. Be present to it and allow God to transform our daily living because we were able to just say, "We want your blessings" and then accept them. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ruby Slippers

Last month, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I say that, but it was precisely what I want to do with my life on a regular basis. I was asked to facilitate and lead the Presbyterian Women's Retreat for Covenant Presbyterian Church. Not only was I asked to facilitate this retreat, I was given full creative license to bring to the group whatever I believed the Spirit was leading me to share. This elicits two words: Dream Job. 

I prayed about the content of this pending weekend for weeks and decided that what I am called to share is what the Lord is sharing with me all the time. Before I knew it, I was creative a retreat featuring the best of Waked Up. I called it "Ruby Slippers: Discovering your Spiritual Present through your Spiritual Past." This retreat would entail spending three days diving into the joys of our childhood's in order to remember how we were created to encounter the Divine on a daily basis.

I believe that whatever it is that you loved as a 7-year-old, whatever it is that you chose to spend your time doing that made you feel full and happy, is the purest form of how you experience joy today. Our inner 7-year-old knows better how we were called to love and experience abiding joy than our distracted adult selves. By tapping into the spaces of joy we experienced as children, then we can begin to reclaim those very same spaces in our adult lives. 

I have taught this theme before in terms of finding what you want to do for your life, i.e. your profession, but for this retreat, I wanted folks to REMEMBER how they connected to joy as a child. The hope being that the spaces where you connected to joy are actually the same spaces and practices that connected you to God. Additionally, I believe God made you to long for those sacred moments because this is where you meet him. These moments are actually prayers. 

During this weekend we revisited story-book characters from our cultural collective like "Little Women", "Matilda", "Bridge to Terabithia", "Peter Pan", "Harry Potter", and of course, "The Wizard of Oz". These characters and their stories became doors that opened us up to the nuances of being 7-years-old that we often block out and forget in adulthood. These memories propelled us to share our own character narratives based on the experiences of our specific childhoods. Through writing, drawing, creating a children's book, painting and just spending time in conversation, a transformation began happening in our eclectic group of women. It was like taking a deep breath and feeling that subtle energy begin to fill your body once more. Eyes became lighter and laugh's a little more twinkly.

There is a lot of power in telling your own story. By telling your story you are reclaiming a truth you believe about yourself and each time you tell it in new situations you are rediscovering something that you needed to know about who you are or who you want to be. By telling the stories of how we have experienced God or had encounters with the Divine, we were reclaiming spaces where we could meet God again and reminding ourselves of moments where we knew that the Divine was real and invested in our lives. 

There is magic available in the human experience of telling your story. In fact, the authors of our lives are the ones that truly have the authority over our very wills to live. This is why it is critical for us to reclaim authorship over our own narratives and become the people that the Divine created for us to grow into. It's almost like a spell how powerfully the truths of our living, breathing joys can be told by the 7-year-old versions of ourselves. Just claiming these memories will give them fuel to come into existence once more even without our intentional gestures in trying to bring them to life. This is the magic of story telling. Every story you hear and tell will become part of you and like an automaton, it will begin to shape your daily gestures in living. 

Ruby Slipper's was a powerfully fun, transformational delight of a weekend. I hope to have another opportunity to lead in this way or even lead this very same retreat material. For many, we spend a lot of time trying to manipulated and influence the world around us, but when we take a look within and claim the joys that God has designed for us and given to us, the changes we seek seem to just wash over the experiences around us. This is why it is worth taking a moment to look within. Jesus said, "Do this and remember me". We remember and then we become. My hope is that people will remember the precious ways that God has already designed for us to find Him, to connect to him, and in remembering we take action. 

We have had the power all along. We are wearing the ruby slippers. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


What do you want to do with your life? What brings you joy? What do you love? 

These questions have inspired and plagued me for as long as I can remember. At my most courageous and certain, I can answer each of them and boldly reach towards a holistic vision for my joyful future. At my most insecure, I can hardly even remember what joy feels like in the first place. 

For some, following your heart's desires is the only way to live. It is an adventure! It takes your whole being! For others, it is hard to narrow down what it is that you'd like to live for because there are so many interesting things to feel passionatly about. Then for even more folks, life is full of many desires and many passions. It will never just be one path, one certainty. 

So how do we begin to discern how we will use our precious time on this planet? 

Right now, I am watching my 7-month-old-daughter explore our living room. She has pressed herself into every nook and cranny of this room and still she finds something new that will fascinate her. Some things she has touched a thousand times and she still experiences something wonderful in just one more interaction with that timeless treasure. What she never fails to be is curious. She misses nothing in a day. She sees everything, hears everything, touches EVERYTHING. She wants to know what I am doing, what Joel is doing, what the neighbors are doing, what that dog is doing and ALL at the same time. This child is curious and each of her curious wanderings led her somewhere new.

Experiencing the world with her is reminding me of a part of myself that I don't give a whole lot of credit to- my curiosity.

My curiosity is a daily assistant to my discernment. It is simple, it is often subtle and easy. There is no pressure when I am curious. It just happens; gently taking me by the hand, visiting interesting non-threatening places until I find that I have landed on something akin to joy. 

The other day I watched a movie about the life of Frida Kahlo. After I watched it, I found myself looking up information about her. I was particularly interested in photos of her, not necessarily her work. I liked how she wore flowers in her hair and found myself thinking about roses throughout the day. Later in the week, I decided to paint some big roses which I have not tried before. Painting the roses, I learned that I really enjoyed painting flowers. It was freeing and bright. I felt my heart refueling and eased myself into a moment of peace and assurance. Today, I have someone interested in buying that painting. 

It all started with curiosity. 

Who knows what will come next, but it was curiosity that led me on this winding little path and brought me to a place of painting for myself again. I needed that space and to create for my own enjoyment. 

While there are many desires in my heart that almost always blast me to spaces of joy in my life, I also know that curiosity will be quietly ushering me along a path that I could not have designed for myself. It will expose me to new wonders that escape the sureness of my mind. It will teach me something fresh about where I can find meaning and joy. And in the end, curiosity will have led me into the fullness and depth I am ultimately seeking from this experience of living life on Earth. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Not my Good

The day we moved into our house we left the boxes taped up and stacked in the living room and headed to the back yard to begin building our first garden. Within 24 hours we had raised beds constructed, a truckload of mulch, and seedlings planted in the ground. Having a vegetable garden has been a priority for us from the beginning. 

This summer, I have written no posts about our garden and it isn't because we opted out of having one. We could have done that. We had some pretty good reasons what with the arrival of our first child and the overwhelming project of renovating my grandparent's home three towns away. However, we still got out there and planted our summer veg.

This summer has been different, though. In the past, Joel or I would spend every night watering our 8 raised beds for about 20 mins. We would spend mornings collecting the fruits of the harvest, our chicken eggs, and doing some light weeding so that it doesn't get away from us. We would freeze the vegetables that would grow in abundance and eat them all year long. Every three weeks we would fertilize the soil with my father-in-law's magical concoction and use pest control to get a handle on vermin that might be destroying our squash or zucchini. 

This summer we have not done any of that. 

But in spite of the heat, my total negligence with watering, weeding, and harvesting, we still have vegetables to eat. 

I have hardly set foot in the garden outside of a monthly weeding and weekly harvesting. Occasionally we will water the plants, but we have left these beds to fair in the sultry Charlotte heat all on their own. And guess what...they live.

It hit me today that this garden is no longer MY garden and never really was in the first place. I have done precious little to keep it alive. I have not worked for the harvest that is still abundant. These vegetables have faired well by the grace of the Divine or however you would see it. 

It's been a good reminder that while I work hard to make things good, ultimately good things can come into existence without me. God makes good things. And these perfectly evolved plants are an example of it. 

Without me, they still grow and produce fruit, and feed me and our neighbors. When I am invested in the good thing that God is already doing in our garden then the harvest is even larger. Basically, it's been a metaphor for life on Earth. God is already doing good things and I can be a witness to it or I can contribute to it. Good will come either way. 

The more I am able to tap into the work of the Lord the richer and more abundant the harvest will be. But if I don't tap into it or I can't do it right now, it doesn't mean that the good fruit isn't growing. It is like the story of Feeding of the 5,000. There was food among the people, but Jesus created an overwhelming abundance when someone was moved to share.

I think about this a lot in life. Ultimately, as a believer, I think my call is to connect to what God is doing right now, in the moment. I want to be part of the good that is already being created around me. I also know that God doesn't need me to create good. The Divine creates good things all the time. My participation contributes to the abundance, the overflow of God's love among us. We get to choose to live in that overflow just like that boy chose to give Jesus the fish and bread that he had with him. 

This is a comforting thought during a season where I don't have lots of time to help people, to volunteer, to worship, to create. I don't need to worry that good things are not happening because I am not organizing them. I just need to focus on what good things are being grown around me become part of that harvest myself.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Common Market

Almost three years ago, Joel and I chose to move into the coolest neighborhood in Charlotte. For us, there was absolutely no doubt that this would be the greatest place in town because it was two blocks from our most beloved hangout- Common Market (South End). 

Common Market was more than a deli, a bottle shop, a coffee stop, or a good place to get free wifi. It was pure magic. It was in an old brick building that had a whimsical courtyard out back. This courtyard was surrounded by walls that seemed to have the power to blot out the terrors of the world beyond them leaving you nestled in a world of creativity, community and good drinks. 

Everything was welcome at Common Market. Anything from locally made baked goods to plastic tentacle fingers could be found here. You could drink a six-pack, a bottle of wine, get local beers on draft, or just sip a kombucha. Anyone could find something to enjoy in good company. 

And good company was always present! Common Market was always full of people- ALL kinds of people. All ages, races, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, the gamete were found shoulder to shoulder, sharing drinks, starting conversations and jamming to sweet tunes. Everyone was welcome and we felt it. 

All kinds of music could be heard here too. Most nights of the week there would be live music or in-house DJs.

The folks who worked at Common Market worked really long hours and you know what, they wouldn't even leave when their shifts ended. These folks loved it so much that they would come in on their days off or hangout on their breaks. For me, this speaks volumes if nothing else does. 

Common Market South End has been the only place I have ever patronized that truly offered common ground to everyone. My sister joked that "it is an extroverts dream" because you are forced to meet new people every time you go. If you want to sit down, you have to at least ask for the empty chair at someone else's table. However, the truth is, you are probably going to be invited to that table and before you know it, you will have a half dozen new friends to look forward to seeing again. 

This spot was special. It wasn't just the strange local artwork that hung precariously off of anything that stood still. It wasn't just the apple tree that grew in the courtyard and offered us fresh fruit each fall. It wasn't the delicious $1 coffee with risque names, or incredible beer selection. It was the people this place attracted. 

I felt welcome there all the time. I could show up in my Pajamas or come dressed to the nines. I enjoyed hanging out there when I was pregnant and later with a stroller and baby in tow. I shared a glass of wine with my 92 year old grandmother in the same place where I played 5's with a bunch of friends from college. On closing day we passed Noelle to total strangers who kissed and cooed over her like her own grandparents. Where else can you have this besides your own living room?

There is just nothing like it that I have found on any of my travels. It was a very special place and now it is closed. The public have been told that they will be seeking a new location since the entire block was bought out by a developer who wants to turn our community gathering place into another apartment building. So we have hopes CM will open in our neighborhood again. But the truth is, it will not be the same. The Common Market as we knew and loved is gone. 

Someone once told me to not get bogged down with the emotions attached to the past but start sending good feelings to the future. He urged me to be excited for the NEW Common Market. I know we can fall in love again. I know that this new location could be even cooler, even more welcoming, and hold true to all that we valued about our old community center. 

I have hope that the future Common Market will offer all the magic and delight it brought to our lives. But for now, I say, "Thank you." Thank you for all the great times. The opportunities to meet amazing, new people. Thank you for the gift of being in a place where you can look around and believe that America is good and people do love one another equally. Thank you for many great nights, big hugs, life-giving cups of coffee, and for damn, good rice-crispy treats. And most of all, thank you for taking me as I am every 
single time. 

Oh, Common Market, I will miss thee, truly.